Minimising seabird bycatch
Photo: Gary Smith
Seabirds forage in highly productive areas of the ocean, which are also targeted by commercial fishing vessels. This overlap can cause them to be accidentally caught on hooks, or entangled in nets. Based on recent literature, it is estimated that every year across Europe more than 200,000 seabirds die as bycatch in fishing gears. This could potentially be higher, as this only considers two types of fishing gear (longlines and gillnets). Furthermore, very few fishing vessels have on board observers to monitor bycatch and the recording of bycatch is poorly enforced.
The BirdLife Partnership has been identifying solutions, often relatively cheap to apply, and promoting these to be adopted in the EU. Within the EU these seabirds are protected under the EU Birds Directive and for some, such as the endemic and critically endangered Balearic shearwater, bycatch is threatening the species with extinction in the next 40 years.
For over a decade the Birdlife partnership campaigned for an EU robust strategy to protect these seabirds. In 2012 the European Commission finally adopted a Plan of Action for reducing incidental catches of seabirds in fishing gears. The plan defines the problem and sets out a number of actions that need to be taken at European, Regional and national level. We now work to ensure its successful implementation, especially through fisheries management.Implementation of fisheries management plans need to introduce solutions to minimise the impacts on seabirds (e.g. through an integrated an ecosystem based approach) and therefore also achieve the objectives of the Common FIsheries Policy. This also includes improving the data that is collected on bycatch. BirdLife Europe engages with EU Institutions, national governments, and the fishing industry to promote the adoption of cost-effective mitigation measures, providing benefits to both fishermen and seabirds.
Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.